Wilton Manors’ Pride Center Holds Town Hall About Meningitis Scare

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In light of the meningitis outbreaks in New York City, the Pride Center in Wilton Manors is hosting a town hall with health professionals to answer questions from the public.

Planned for June 26 at 7 p.m., local physicians and officials from the Broward County Health Department will be present on the panel. Also, those from the New York State Health Department will be chiming in via Skype.

“We’ve been in the planning stages for a while, since the first outbreak in New York and LA,” said Kristofer Fegenbush, Pride Center COO. “It provides an opportunity for the community to connect over issues, so we wanted to be able to provide a forum for education and information and dialogue around meningitis.”

In two years, there have been 22 cases of gay men infected with bacterial meningitis in New York City. Seven of the men died from the disease and 12 of the men were HIV-positive. Recently, a gay man in Los Angeles died from meningitis, but it was found to not be the same strain of those in the Big Apple.

According to the Florida Department of Health, bacterial meningitis is spread through saliva. This could mean sexual activity or simply sharing drinks or cigarettes. The disease causes inflammation of the spinal cord and brain, leading to severe headache, fever, stiff neck and more severe neurological symptoms.

Because the beginning stages of meningitis can be mistaken for a bad cold, some of those infected think to just sleep off the illness. In some cases, men were found dead in their beds before they thought to go to the doctor, according to the New York Times.

Although there haven’t been any cases in South Florida, Fegenbush believes it’s better to educate people, especially with the Pride Center getting concerns from some in the community.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s been a flood of panic by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s obviously folks that are concerned and folks that are asking questions,” he said. “There’s a lot of buzz about it, there’s a lot of questions, there’s a lot of doubts, and so to clear those things up, rather than them sort of existing in a vacuum, it’s healthy to provide an opportunity for folks to get together and ask questions of public officials.”

Meningitis Town Hall

Learn more about the deadly meningitis outbreak among gay men in New York City. Public health officials from Broward County and New York will be available to answer any questions from participants.

When: June 26 at 7 p.m.

Where: Pride Center, 2040 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors

Cost: Free

More info.: Kristofer Fegenbush, 954-463-9005Christiana Lilly